Written by Mike Reiss, Illustrated by David Catrow
Price Stern Sloan, 2000
Twas the night before Christmas and at the North Pole
Santa was rockin’ and ready to roll
Who saves Christmas? Murray Kleiner (owner of Murray K’s Holiday Diner)
What do they save it from? Santa’s absence due to injury
Santa is loading his sleigh when Edison, an elf with a dream of being an inventor, shows him his newest toy, the Jack-in-the-Boxer, which promptly knocks Santa unconscious. Following the advice of a card in Santa’s pocket, Edison calls Murray and asks him to step in for Santa. Murray initially refuses, but Edison reminds him that it’s Christmas, which is a time for good deeds, so Murray agrees. He puts on Santa’s suit and does his best, although he has a few early mishaps. In one house, he finds himself facing a young child, who accuses him of being a fake and even questions the existence of the real Santa. Murray sets the boy straight (and fixes him a sandwich) and finishes delivering toys to all the good kids. Then he points out that he has enough time and enough toys to bring toys to all the naughty kids, too. When the job is done, since there’s nothing left for Edison or Murray, they just give each other hugs and celebrate a job well done.
This thoroughly enjoyable book comes from author Mike Reiss, whose writing on The Simpsons won him three Emmy awards. He was also the co-creator of The Critic and wrote for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. His comedy pedigree shines through in this story, which is written in rhyme and is very funny. The accompanying artwork by David Catrow serves as a perfect complement to the story, presenting Murray as a funny-looking man with thick glasses, a thick neck and a set of red curls on his head that comes to a point at the top. You can’t help but love this guy, who throws himself into Santa’s job even though he doesn’t seem to really understand it any more than he can remember the names of the reindeer. Earlier this year, NBC announced that it had optioned this story for an animated special to be aired in 2014. I am already looking forward to seeing it!
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that the most important thing you need to do any job well is to put your heart into it.